Chemo Checklist: Tips to Get Through Treatment

Guest Blogger, Cervical Cancer Survivor
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 - 4:04pm

I won't deny it, chemotherapy is tough. But during my time in the Chemotherapy & Infusion Center, I learned some tricks that helped me cope with treatment.

Chemotherapy is a long and tedious process, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible during your stay. This requires proper preparation, a well-stocked chemo bag and a proactive approach to self-care.

Here is a list of tips that I hope will help make your experience a little easier. 

How to Prepare

  • Get a good night’s sleep: Make sure to get enough rest before treatment. Chemotherapy causes fatigue, so a well-rested body will respond better to treatment.
  • Drink lots of water: On the day before, water prepares your body for the dehydrating effects of treatment. On the day after, it helps to flush the chemo meds out of your system.
  • Eat a light meal: A healthy, balanced meal before treatment will boost your stamina and energy levels. Since chemotherapy sometimes causes nausea, it helps to keep the meal light.
  • Make transportation arrangements: You’ll need a designated driver to take you home after treatment — some medications will make you drowsy or you may not feel well enough to drive.
  • Wear comfortable clothes & shoes: I had a designated chemo uniform to take the stress out of deciding what to wear - black leggings, slip on shoes, cute socks, a zip-up sweater and a V neck t-shirt. Wear anything that makes you feel cozy and cute.
  • Assemble your support team: Ask a friend or family member to accompany you to your chemo session. Or, have them stay behind and help with chores around the house. The extra support will put you at ease and help you relax during your appointment.
  • Buy a wig before treatment starts: Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. If you plan to wear a wig, start your wig search before treatment begins to match your current hair style, cut and color. 

Hear Nancy Bertran, MSN, OCN, and Center Administrator at Roswell Park’s Chemotherapy Infusion Center, discuss tips on getting through chemotherapy as part of our Cancer Talk podcast series.

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What to Bring

  • Entertainment: Once chemotherapy is administered, you can’t leave the facility so you’ll need fun distractions to combat the inevitable boredom. Bring your favorite books and magazines or load your laptop, tablet or smartphone with fun games or TV shows.
  • Music & headphones: Music helps you relax. Close your eyes and drown out the sounds of the infusion center with your favorite tunes.
  • Beverages: It’s important to stay hydrated before, during and after chemotherapy. Water is the best option so pack a few bottles in your bag.
  • Snacks: Check with your doctor first, but if it’s ok, bring some healthy snacks to your session to keep your energy up.
  • Candy or mints: Chemo can cause dry mouth and nausea, as well as an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Candy and mints mask the terrible taste and combat the side effects.
  • Friend or family member: Bring someone to talk to. Friends and family are a great distraction during chemo.
  • Lip balm: Dry lips are a common side effect of chemotherapy. Lip balm will keep your lips hydrated and prevent cracking. 
  • Travel size pillow: Sitting in a chair for multiple hours can get a little uncomfortable. A small, travel size pillow works wonders for your neck.
  • Extra sweater or blanket: Hospitals are usually cold and the chemo infusion center gets chilly. Dress in layers or bring a soft, cozy blanket to keep warm.
  • A sense of humor: Cancer sucks, try to make the best of it.